Sorry, digital — a new wave of filmmakers is embracing the analogue charms of Super 8 film. The cameras can be tricky to come by — your best bet is buying a vintage used model from eBay — but Kodak still makes four types of Super 8mm film stock, and UK Super 8 competitions are increasingly popular. One such contest is Straight 8: entrants shoot an unedited short on a three-minute Super 8 cartridge, and they don’t get to see their finished film until it screens at one of the Straight 8 events. The highlight of this year is a Cannes Film Festival screening.
We asked four prize-winning Super 8 directors, including George Ancock (above, left) and Will Cummock (above, right), to reveal their cinematic techniques.
Auters: George Ancock, Will Cummock and Nick Rutter, UK
Reel to watch: From Russia With Monsters and its clever “digital” effects.
Trick to try: Film smoothly, like a pro, but on the cheap. Dollies or vehicles are expensive to hire. Get the same effect with a bike (above) or steadicam, such as the Steadicam JR (as Will Cummock is holding), or a Super 8 camera with a low centre of gravity, such as an Elmo 108. It won’t have a socket to operate remotely 00 use an air cable release. Fix a small video camera such as an Aiptek to the film camera, to preview each frame in real-time.
Auter: Dagie Brunart, Germany
Reel to watch: Turn Baby Turn, a lyrical piece about the mutliple meanings of symbols.
Trick to try: Add words or numbers into your film. After developing the film, fix it on a lightbox, gelatine emulsion side up (identifiable by its dull finish). Heat a needle in a flame and scratch on to the frames — mirror-inverting numbers or letters. Calculate the number of frames for which you need to repeat the shape. Playback speed is normally 24 frames per second; if you want a word to appear for two seconds, scratch it on to 48 frames.
Auter: John Cannizzaro, US
Reel to watch: The First Thanksgiving, a stop motion based on an Eddie Izzard skit.
Trick to try: Change the background. To replace the background of, say, a gravestone that you have already shot, set up a Super 8 projector loaded with the original footage beside a Super 8 camera. Project it on to a translucent screen with a cardboard cutout of the grave behind the screen. Project a new background from a second projector on to the rear of the screen. Front view: the grave stays; background changes. Hit record on the Super 8.
Auter: Naren Wilks, UK
Reel to watch: Collide-o-scope, in which a man and his clones jump around a small white room.
Trick to try: Shoot a dreamy time-lapse sequence. Buy a camera with long-exposure capability, such as the Braun Nizo 561. It should also have an intervalometer, which moves the film at a reduced rate — combine the two for a great effect. It’s best to shoot at night as the aperture is open; during the day use a ten-stop (or greater) neutral density filter. Long exposure timelapse sequences are best for filming scenes with a lot of movement.
This article was taken from the January 2012 issue of Wired magazine. Be the first to read Wired’s articles in print before they’re posted online, and get your hands on loads of additional content by subscribing online.